Key features of collaborative library spaces

Most librarians can recall instances where the physical space of a library was either unsuitable for the work to be performed or, in some unfortunate instances, actually hindered productivity.

Solving problems together in schools, colleges, and universities enhances students’ learning and builds their collaborative skills. Libraries and communities are natural fits for collaboration of this type – working together on a common goal and creating solutions beyond individual capabilities. Collaborative spaces unite physical and digital worlds and create environments that are conducive to group problem solving.

Sectioning your library into clear zones with specific and specialist purposes is one key to providing a variety of usable environments. Allow your students to browse quietly on their mobile phones in carefully selected areas. On the flip side, be sure to allow designated spaces where phones and devices are not allowed. This division of zones is an excellent opportunity to think creatively. Try and be different when establishing the definition of space. You could use distinctive flooring, furniture or even lighting to clearly demarcate where one area ends and another begins. Think about how to provide cosy spaces for individual reading and offer soundproof meeting rooms for collaborative work.


Collaborative learning spaces should be flexible, in regard to both the physical space and how it is used. Furniture should be easy to move, enabling easy transitions between group and independent learning. Students should have a variety of seating options, from traditional desk chairs to bean bags, sofas, stools and standing desks.

Different learning types

Collaborative learning spaces should accommodate all types of learning: independent one-on-one learning, small group learning and large group learning.


Collaborative learning spaces should make students and teachers feel comfortable engaging in a variety of teaching and learning styles, whether it’s the traditional presentation form or some combination of project-based and personalised learning.

The three Cs

Most importantly, collaborative learning spaces should reinforce and encourage the other three Cs of 21st century learning: critical thinking, creativity and communication.

Consider how each of the following learning spaces is accommodated in your school library:

  • quiet space — to reflect, read and study
  • collaboration space — to discuss, brainstorm, share and tell stories
  • presentation space — to present, share and celebrate
  • breakout space — to discover, create, practice and share
  • makerspace — to play, experiment and design

Characteristics of an innovative library learning environment:

  • welcome, vibrant and culturally inclusive environment
  • large, flexible learning space based on fluid design principles
  • place for end-to-end learning: consuming, creating, producing and sharing new knowledge
  • balanced access to print, digital and multimedia collections
  • place of exploration and curiosity

Should you be looking for furniture options to reconfigure your existing library into a versatile, fun space, get in touch by contacting the number below or click the link to bring you through to our range of products ✨

0345 450 7847